Summary: When Gabriel announced to Mary that she would be the mother of the Messiah, Mary responded with a willing heart.
*A few days ago the president of Iran shocked the leaders of the world when he said that the Holocaust was a myth used by the Europeans to create a Jewish state. 6 million Jews weren’t really murdered during WWII. So Israel really has no right to exist. In fact, Israel should be “wiped off the map” of the world, he said. How do you respond to something like that? You respond with the truth. *I remember visiting the children’s Holocaust memorial in Israel a few years ago. You enter a completely darkened building except for 4 candles reflected by mirrors that make it look like there are over a million flames floating in space, and in the dark you hear someone reading the names of the 1.6 million Jewish kids who died in WWII; each light represents a child. Each light has a name. The names are real. I remember visiting the concentration camp in Dachau, Germany, and seeing the barracks where the Jewish prisoners lived. I stuck my head inside one of the ovens used to burn their bodies after they were gassed to death. The Holocaust was real, and we need to speak out against radicals who try to bury the truth, because if we don’t, they’re going to use their lies to murder more people.
This morning, we’re going to look at another truth that some people question. It’s one of the foundational teachings of Christianity, but some people claim that it’s just a myth. It’s the virgin birth of Christ. Does it really matter if Jesus was born of a virgin? What does it mean for our faith, and for our lives? Let’s take a look at our Gospel lesson for today, Luke chapter 1.
The Bible says that in the 6th month God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph. The 6th month of what? It was the 6th month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. This was the second mission for the angel Gabriel in just a few months. The first time God sent Gabriel to Zechariah the priest to let him know that his wife Elizabeth was going to be pregnant and give birth to John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus. Everywhere you look in the Bible, God sends His angels to protect His plan for salvation. They’re everywhere because is the most important event in history!
Mary was probably a teenage girl who was poor and lived in a little town that didn’t matter to the rest of the world, kind of like Vergas, the town my mother grew up in up north, population 300 counting the cows and chickens! Nothing important happens in Vergas! But one day something important did happen to Mary. Gabriel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you!”
Mary had no idea how much she needed to hear those words. She had no idea what was coming. She needed to know, just like you and I do, that she was highly favored! No, she didn’t deserve to be adored or prayed to, like some treat her today. After all, the word Gabriel uses for “favor” comes the word “Charis”. It means undeserved favor; a gift. Mary was a sinful human being, like you and I are. But Mary was favored. The Lord was with her because He loved her. Before you and I ever get out of bed in the morning, we need to meditate on the truth that you and I are highly favored because of Jesus. By God’s undeserved grace, the Lord is with us, 24/7. Before we read the depressing news, before we pick up the phone, before we deal with our spouse or our kids, before we step in the classroom and face the challenge of all those tests and all that pressure, before we go to the doctor’s office and get the diagnosis, we need to know that God loves us and cares for us and is with us. We are highly favored!
We are special, and so was Mary, even though nobody else thought she was. *Last week at a professional hockey game in New Hampshire, a jeweler gave the first 1,000 women who came through the door an envelope. One of the envelopes contained a half-carat diamond worth $2,500. The others were diamond look-alikes. Hundreds of women had their stone checked out, but the woman with the real diamond threw hers in the garbage, because she was sure it wasn’t real! After the winning diamond didn’t show up, her son fished hers out of the garbage. She took it to a jeweler and was shocked to find it was real! On the outside Mary looked just like any other Jewish teenager in Nazareth. Nobody paid any attention to her. But Mary was special because God had chosen her. And maybe you feel like you’re nothing special in this world of 6 billion people. You’re just another person. How could God pay any attention to you and your problems! But the truth is “God so loves the world…” That’s you and me! You’re highly favored! The Lord is with you! Matthew 28:20, “Surely I Am with you always, even to the end of the age!” You’re the diamond! You’re the real thing in God’s eyes! We need to hold on to this truth every day, so when challenges and heartache come our way, we know we’re not alone! Mary needed to hold on too, because look at what Gabriel was about to tell her: